To our clients:
This email blast is this the first of three HLERK blasts addressing COVID-19. Each blast answers the most frequently asked questions from you, as well as new questions that have arisen over the weekend.
This first blast addresses questions involving the personnel and the labor area. The second blast will cover governance and corporate matters, and the third blast will cover students and special education. Our answers are based on the latest orders and guidance from the Governor, ISBE, and the CDC. As you will see, not all questions have definitive answers. Additionally, we expect more questions to arise and answers to previous questions to change. To say this is a fluid situation is an understatement. If you have questions or are unclear about anything, please call us. You can reach us 24/7. Last Friday, we sent you the cell phone numbers of all HLERK attorneys. If you need that list sent to you again, please contact us.
The mandatory school shutdown due to COVID-19 has introduced several questions regarding labor and personnel issues. This situation is different than anything our educational community has faced in the recent past. The following points are based on ISBE’s current guidance, which is continually evolving.
When are schools mandated to close for instructional purposes due to COVID-19?
For the period March 17 through March 30, 2020 (“AOG Period”), instructional days on your school calendar have been declared Act of God days and will not count as instructional days even if e-learning is provided. These AOG days are not required to be made up.
What about today, March 16?
Today, March 16, has not been declared an AOG day automatically. Instead, schools have total flexibility over how they designate the day. They may use an Emergency Day; a Teacher Institute Day, even if the district has already used all of its pre-planned Teacher Institute Days; a half-day of student attendance; or, if a district has already exhausted all of its Emergency Days, an Act of God day.
Will staff be paid for the AOG period?
Per ISBE’s guidance, during the AOG Period, schools will not be in regular session, but all staff (teachers and ESP employees) must be paid their regular compensation for work days without deducting from the staff member’s accumulated leave. (Note: If your spring break falls during the AOG Period, the break does not need to be paid.)
Do schools have to staff school buildings during the shutdown?
School districts may require administrators to perform duties during the AOG Period, and ISBE has recommended that at least one administrator should be available in each school building. Additionally, all recommendations from the IDPH should be followed, including proper distancing and encouraging working remotely, if possible.
Can schools require staff to perform any functions during the shutdown?
Whether a school district may require employees (teachers or ESP staff) to perform job duties during the AOG Period remains in dispute. ISBE is recommending that schools continue educational opportunities, provide meals to students, run payroll, and conduct IEP meetings, all of which may require the assistance of non-administrative employees, as would maintaining building security. It is our understanding that ISBE and/or representatives from the Governor’s Office will be meeting soon with the IEA and IFT to discuss whether employees can be required to perform these essential functions during the AOG Period. We hope that meeting will help clarify the roles of both bargaining unit and non-bargaining unit employees for the remainder of the AOG Period, and we expect additional guidance from ISBE or the Governor’s Office following that meeting.